Could it be the substrate? Tank in terminal decline...

Cat

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Hello,

I wasn't sure where to put this post but seeing as we have changed just about everything else in the tank the substrate is the only thing left?

We set up the tank in 2014, it is a large tank at 450 litres, we filled it with ADA Amazonia soil, power sand and this stuff that was made up of white pebbles with holes in it which was supposed to store nutrients ( sorry can't remember what it was called ).

My husband made the lights ( he's an electronic engineer ) and we rigged up a fire extinguisher system with an inline ceramic diffuser. We have a fluidized bed filter and various cartridge filters for the inflow for the water changes. And dose with the EI ferts system.

Anyway its never been that good, it has never looked like the amazing tanks on this forum, but I have a 1 year old and a 5 year old so have barely any time. We filled it with what we thought would be the easiest plants to grow - Echinodorus and Vallisneria and after an initial problematic phase of cyanobacteria it worked well enough. We had all kinds of algae but the main thing was the plants grew bigger and there was always enough growth that I could do a clean once a week and take out the old growth and the new stuff would fill in.

But for the last year it has all stopped growing, the plants are just dying slowly. At first we thought it was a circulation problem so we rebuilt all of that, then when that didn't work I read a lot on this forum and came across Ceg's post about Potassium Nitrate and realised we had fallen down that pitfall so sorted that out but still no better. Thought maybe it was the CO2 but the drop checker goes yellow by the afternoon and we don't want to gas the fish. So we are lost. The substrate is the only thing left?

Do you think if it has all runout of nutrients after 5 years that would be enough to kill the tank, even with the COz, lights and ferts? What ever the set was before it was enough. We are currently trying to sell the fish so we can rescape - incidentally does anyone want 3 Discus fish cheap?

I'm hesitant to spend lots more money on ADA stuff after everything else we've done that hasn't worked. Are there people in this community that can come and see a setup and tell whats wrong with it, for a fee obviously? Because if we don't fix it we will just have to strip in down and put some tetra in it as it makes up half of my livingroom!

I would grateful for any advice sorry the post is so long.
 

Cat

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Almost too embarrassing to post ...
First picture was about a year ago and second is today.
 

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Kalum

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If you are absolutely sure nothing else has changed then theres only 2 variables left I can think of

Like you say the substrate might have fully depleted its nutrient store but if you are sure you are dosing full EI then it still shouldn't die off like that as they should be able to still uptake from the water column, unsure if the CEC values also deplete with time if it breaks down but would make sense as 5 years is a long time. Not sure if a build up of waste organics could be spiking and throwing out something your tank doesn't agree with

The only other thing is the water you are putting in during water changes, ro or tap? Potentially something different in the water source? Unlikely but clutching at straws
 

Keith GH

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Cat

Without actually seeing the tank it can be rather difficult. Only thing for sure your plants are dying and something should have been done at soon as the concern started.
fish-tank1-jpg.jpg

Looking at the first photo other than a beautiful healthy planted tank I immediately noticed the depth of the substrate plus in the back LH corner bare roots. This would draw me to the conclusion substrate no deep enough for your plants. It's even more noticeable in the second photo.

Solution strip the tank down and start afresh using a greater substrate depth very sorry to say.

Keith:wave::greenfinger:
 

Cat

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If you are absolutely sure nothing else has changed then theres only 2 variables left I can think of

Like you say the substrate might have fully depleted its nutrient store but if you are sure you are dosing full EI then it still shouldn't die off like that as they should be able to still uptake from the water column, unsure if the CEC values also deplete with time if it breaks down but would make sense as 5 years is a long time. Not sure if a build up of waste organics could be spiking and throwing out something your tank doesn't agree with

The only other thing is the water you are putting in during water changes, ro or tap? Potentially something different in the water source? Unlikely but clutching at straws

We've had some issues with the incoming water. It is filtered through a sediment, chloramine and an activated carbon cartridge system and inline heaters. We don't use RO because we had to use it for discus fish for years and it is so wasteful, we have quite hard water here and it is a large tank so we would had been chucking a 1000 litres to produce 200 it just bothered me too much.

Twice in the last year we've discovered the fish in a bad way after a water change the day before and had to do more emergency further water changes and they've recovered. We've had no idea what has happened but have wondered if our water suppliers have dumped something in the water. Although I've been keeping fish for years in Cambridge and this has not happened before. We are a rural area and I know their nitrate levels in the standard water supply is at the highest allowed because we can see that in their published water quality test results, although they are always a couple years old as they don't seem to publish current ones. We do have a lot of farming and so this is to be expected apparently. It's all guess work at our end.
 

Cat

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Cat

Without actually seeing the tank it can be rather difficult. Only thing for sure your plants are dying and something should have been done at soon as the concern started.
fish-tank1-jpg.jpg

Looking at the first photo other than a beautiful healthy planted tank I immediately noticed the depth of the substrate plus in the back LH corner bare roots. This would draw me to the conclusion substrate no deep enough for your plants. It's even more noticeable in the second photo.

Solution strip the tank down and start afresh using a greater substrate depth very sorry to say.

Keith:wave::greenfinger:


Thank you for your response, the substrate is much higher at the back, but as you say it has got lower and lower as I've accidentally syphoned it out when cleaning. The tank has always had lots and lots of what I think is called mulm. I mean masses, I've never understood how planted tank people seem to have such clean tanks and wondered if they clean everyday? I've always had to disturb the top of the substrate to get the general crap out and what I've read gives the impression you shouldn't do this but I've never been able to work out how to clean otherwise and with fish in the tank I've always had to take the poo out at least. But as I have said with the disabilities I have and both of my kids been so young I just don't have the time. I figured the only thing left we could change would be the substrate and that I'd have to rescape ultimately so its good to know that there isn't enough in there. What I don't get is that people have inert substrate in their tanks and their other additives are enough to grow their plants so why not in mine?

The lights are on their lowest setting and the general impression I've got from reading on this forum is that problems are rarely caused by not having enough light, besides are house is not big enough to stop daylight hitting the tank from one side at least.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Do you think if it has all runout of nutrients after 5 years that would be enough to kill the tank, even with the COz, lights and ferts?
came across Ceg's post about Potassium Nitrate and realised we had fallen down that pitfall so sorted that out but still no better.
What fertiliser are you using?

cheers Darrel
 

Cat

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Hi,
I have been using Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulphate and chelated Trace. As they ran out we tried to find cheaper sources and so got some Bonsai food which I think was supposed to be Potassium Nitrate (?) and we got some Epsom Salts. Ceg's article described how Potassium Nitrate should look, feel and smell and so we realised ours wasn't as it should be and so went back to using the Aquarium Plant Food branded stuff just to try and narrow the variables.
 

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dw1305

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Hi all,
Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulphate and chelated Trace.
That should cover most bases. Do you add a separate iron source, or just the traces?
We don't use RO because we had to use it for discus fish for years and it is so wasteful, we have quite hard water here and it is a large tank so we would had been chucking a 1000 litres to produce 200 it just bothered me too much.
I'm not an advocate of RO for the same reasons.

Have a look at <"Duckweed Index says...."> if you have very hard tap water it can mean that FeEDTA isn't an effective enough chelator to supply iron. What you would be particularly looking for would be pale new leaves.

Because iron isn't mobile within the plant it is only leaves that grow after the iron addition (if the plants are iron deficient) that will be healthier.

Algae will show a quicker response, so the first sign maybe a flush of green algae.

cheers Darrel
 

Cat

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Do you add a separate iron source, or just the traces?

I don't add any separate iron, I looked up the Chempak Sequestered Iron on the link you sent, do you know if it will harm the fish and how much I should add? I am a gardener so do buy things like this for the garden but don't have to worry about killing anything normally. I presume I should dissolve it first? Sorry I have no idea how to calculate this sort of thing!
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
What do your plants look like, are the new leaves really small and pale? Adding iron will only make a difference if the plants are iron deficient.
I should dissolve it first? Sorry I have no idea how to calculate this sort of thing!
You should.

There are dosing calculators you can use, like <"Rotala Butterfly">, or the method in the <"FeEDDHA"> thread.

cheers Darrel
 

Andrew Butler

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Just looking in your second/most recent photo of the aquarium I spot an APF dosing bottle on top of the aquarium which looks a little dirty; any idea what this is?
I doubt very much it's anything to do with your problems but it just looks a little extra dirty.

Not a resolve to your problems really but I can picture a nice, huge piece of driftwood or 2 running along the aquarium with some ferns etc planted on it and some simple gravel to replace the ADA soil. It could make things easier to keep on top of but you need to understand what's gone wrong and why too I think.
 

Cat

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Hi all,
What do your plants look like, are the new leaves really small and pale? Adding iron will only make a difference if the plants are iron deficient. You should.

There are dosing calculators you can use, like <"Rotala Butterfly">, or the method in the <"FeEDDHA"> thread.

cheers Darrel

To be honest I rarely get many new leaves these days, they are pale though and very thin. I will try adding the iron either way, I mean once I sell the fish I will start again but I would like to better understand why it has ended up like this. There are so many variables to consider when you dig down into it, I thought I would be able to simplify things by having "easy" plants in reasonably high tech tank and I suppose it did work for a while at least. Thank you for your help!
 

Cat

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Just looking in your second/most recent photo of the aquarium I spot an APF dosing bottle on top of the aquarium which looks a little dirty; any idea what this is?
I doubt very much it's anything to do with your problems but it just looks a little extra dirty.

Not a resolve to your problems really but I can picture a nice, huge piece of driftwood or 2 running along the aquarium with some ferns etc planted on it and some simple gravel to replace the ADA soil. It could make things easier to keep on top of but you need to understand what's gone wrong and why too I think.

The second bottle is the Chelated Trace bottle which stains the bottle itself, I'm assuming its the iron in it but really have no idea.

And as it happens the first thing I put in the tank was an enormous sweeping piece of bog wood it looked fantastic but I couldn't cope with all the crud that built up around it in the nooks and crannies and I had just started with the planted tank thing and all the algae was going ballistic. I later added large pieces of purple slate but then my Discus started arguing and I was worried they'd get injured. Anyway 2 years later I've decided to sell my remaining three discus and go no fish for a while until I can actually manage all this plant stuff.

Gravel would certainly be a whole lot cheaper!
 

MatthewN

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I have lurked here for a while but your interesting case has really moved me to post. ;)

We have a fluidized bed filter and various cartridge filters for the inflow for the water changes.

I have had really bad experiences with fluidized bed filters in the past, is yours homemade or a brand name? What are you using for media? When was the last time you replaced the media in it?

And as it happens the first thing I put in the tank was an enormous sweeping piece of bog wood it looked fantastic but I couldn't cope with all the crud that built up around it in the nooks and crannies and I had just started with the planted tank thing and all the algae was going ballistic.

In my experience crude usually needs to come from somewhere.. from plants dying, to much food, or hardscape materials breaking down. Did you always have the same fish? From the beginning? Did you change food or add more fish? I can't really see the Discus in the first picture were they in the tank at that time?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
get many new leaves these days, they are pale though and very thin. I will try adding the iron either way,
Fingers crossed. It sounds a plan, try the iron and see what happens.
There are so many variables to consider when you dig down into it,
That is it really. Plants need all <"fourteen of the essential elements for growth">, just in amounts that differ over several orders of magnitude. Plant growth is like a car assembly line, you need all the components or you don't get a "car".

I don't test the water in the tanks, it isn't that I don't want to know what the parameters are, <"I would really like to know">, but there are a lot of technical difficulties.

I use plant growth as a proxy for water conditions, mainly because the plants can't lie.

cheers Darrel
 

Andrew Butler

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The second bottle is the Chelated Trace bottle which stains the bottle itself, I'm assuming its the iron in it but really have no idea.

And as it happens the first thing I put in the tank was an enormous sweeping piece of bog wood it looked fantastic but I couldn't cope with all the crud that built up around it in the nooks and crannies and I had just started with the planted tank thing and all the algae was going ballistic. I later added large pieces of purple slate but then my Discus started arguing and I was worried they'd get injured. Anyway 2 years later I've decided to sell my remaining three discus and go no fish for a while until I can actually manage all this plant stuff.

Gravel would certainly be a whole lot cheaper!
I'd probably agree it could be staining, just thought I'd ask - no disrespect etc meant! :)
You must get through quite some fertiliser with a tank that size so spend a while mixing those small containers up - thought about bigger containers and a simple doser hidden away to make things easier? They do say not to keep mixed ferts in the light, quite the difference this makes I'm unsure

The driftwood was only a suggestion but it seems you've been that route before.
I guess Discus and the inhabitants that might help you stay on top of part of the crud issue are not compatible.
A method a lot of people seem to have take up now is using a turkey baster to blast the crud out of the nooks and crannies straight into the path of your siphon at water changes. ;)

People do plant in gravel; things like root tabs or even choosing plants that rely on water for their fertilisation.
Big (or small) pieces of stone with certain plant types can replace the wood and just have a minimal layer of gravel/sand.

If I'm honest I'm not confident enough to detail but many on here are if you want to avoid the aqua soil and go down the gravel route.

Flooding the thread with useless information, sorry! :sorry:
 

Cat

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[QUOTEI have had really bad experiences with fluidized bed filters in the past, is yours homemade or a brand name? What are you using for media? When was the last time you replaced the media in it?[/QUOTE]

I used to make the fluidized beds out of bottles and things 10 years ago when you couldn't buy them in the shops but this time we bought a V2Bio600f. I haven't ever completely replaced the media but top it up every so often. The way the tank was originally set up meant that I would occasionally syphon out some of the sand by accident and so it would get lower and lower, although we changed the way the water went through the system and this no longer happens. We also have a large external filter with very course media in it but this was put in to increase the flow in the tank after a miscommunication between my husband and I resulted in him making the holes in the spray bar bigger and greatly reducing the turbulence in the tank! What were your bad experiences?


[QUOTE In my experience crude usually needs to come from somewhere.. from plants dying, to much food, or hardscape materials breaking down. Did you always have the same fish? From the beginning? Did you change food or add more fish? I can't really see the Discus in the first picture were they in the tank at that time?[/QUOTE]

When I originally set the tank up as planted we had no fish, didn't want to expose them to ammonia spikes etc while the filters matured. Eventually I got some dwarf puffer fish and some tiny shoaling fish. Then returned to keeping Discus as I got totally sucked in to the new breeds that had become available since the last time I kept them. One thing that remained constant was general crap everywhere. I read on this forum that there are people that don't believe in "new tank syndrome" but that syndrome describes very well what I had, tones of cyanobacteria and all manner of algae that eventually abated but never disappeared. After the first year I no longer had cyanobacteria but I always had various types of algae, but two very difficult pregnancies later I was past caring!
 

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